Rajnath, Naidu to meet CPI leaders today over presidential polls

Rajnath Sonia Gandhi and LK Advani

Presidential Elections 2017 BJP committee to meet Sonia Gandhi on Friday

Venkaiah Naidu on Friday met Communist Party of India (CPI) leaders D. Raja and Sudhakar Reddy at the latter's party office over Presidential elections.

Senior BJP leaders and Union ministers Rajnath Singh and M Venkaiah Naidu met at Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence for talks to reach a consensus on a presidential candidate, polling for which is scheduled to take place on 17 July. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is also part of the team, is away in South Korea. While the Congress questioned the usefulness of the exercise in the absence of any name, Yechuri demanded that a candidate with "impeccable secular credentials" should be the next President of the country. So, now what we are saying is if they (government) do not tell us the name of their Presidential candidate by June 20, then we will appeal to other opposition parties that we should all meet on June 21 and declare our candidate. We would have certainly thought about such a person, but they did not suggest any name.

The BJP may finalise its nominee two or three days before the PM's departure.

The BJP is also in hurry as apparently the ruling side wants to complete the process of consensus and consultation with the opposition parties before the Prime Minister leaves for the United States later this month. "So the mandate is for the Opposition", he said.

Yechury said it was required for the government to suggest names for arriving at a consensus.

Among those who attended the meeting in Azad's chamber were Yechury, Sharad Yadav, (JD-U), Patel, Ram Gopal Yadav (SP), Mishra, Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress), Derek O'Brien (Trinamool Congress), and R.S. Bharti (DMK).

At its first meeting on Wednesday, some of the group's members had stressed on the need for putting up an "ideological and political fight" against the BJP and not to compromise with it.

Besides the Congress, the BJP committee of ministers has also reached out to the Congress, BSP, NCP and CPI-M. We can only support on the basis of a candidate.

Naidu also had a conversation on this with NCP Chief Sharad Pawar over the phone and met AIADMK leader Thambidurai.

Barring a last-minute hitch, the two strong candidates to win nomination of NDA-led alliance are Kariya Munda, a former deputy speaker and tribal from Jharkhand who is dyed in RSS ideology, and Thawar Singh Gehlot, social justice minister in Modi's cabinet and a Dalit leader from Madhya Pradesh. Kharge maintained that the government "already has something in its mind" and is seeking cooperation from the opposition.

The presidential candidates are expected to file the requisite papers by June 28.

The government side described the opposition demand for disclosure of the name as "inappropriate".

Sources said that an argument broke out between Yechury and Azad at the meeting.

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